TWICKENHAM — It’s the mark of a good side that England can beat a team like South Africa without hitting top gear. They looked rusty at stages, struggled with discipline in the first half but they got the job done with an impressive confidence.
It was a match they were never in danger of losing. Their 37-21 triumph made it 10 on the bounce under Eddie Jones and it was their first win over the Springboks since 2006. Unwanted droughts and records are being cancelled out in the Jones era.
They were marshalled by the brilliant Ben Youngs at scrum-half. His box kicks and passes were on point and it was no coincidence that it was his darting run in the 44th minute to tee up the try for George Ford which ended this as a contest. He followed this up with a near-identical piece of skill to tee up Owen Farrell after 68 minutes.
South Africa were poor. They lacked any invention and but for some incisive runs from Damien de Allende, showed little in attack. Their defence around the fringes was near non-existent and they looked stretched whenever England went wide or, for that matter, through the middle.
Ben Youngs masterminded England’s victory over South Africa, their first against the Springboks since 2006. Steve Bardens – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images
England did start slowly but were seldom tested by this Boks side. It was a cold, damp occasion at Twickenham — John Keats was perhaps thinking of November Tests when he penned his Ode to Autumn, talking of a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
While Jones will be pleased with the win, will take the positives and be relieved at the clean bill of health, it is the bigger picture around this match which is perhaps most significant.
Friday marked a year to the day that Stuart Lancaster left his post as England coach in the grizzly, post-World Cup bloodletting. Now, a year on, and England have won all 10 matches under Jones with continuity and gradual evolution at their very core.
The back-row which started against the Boks had a familiar look. Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood and Billy Vunipola all started that fateful World Cup match against Wales but this time around Robshaw was at blindside and Wood was at No.7. It’s those little tweaks coupled with a change in mentality and outlook which have seen England progress.
Robshaw did superbly at blindside, nullifying any threat from the South Africa back-row. Their handling was also impressive. As they tested the water in the first half, it was that back-row who were putting the wingers into space but it was England’s starting 8,9,10,12 axis that was key to this victory.
Marland Yarde leads the England celebrations after Jonny May scored the first of four tries for the hosts against South Africa at Twickenham. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)
Billy Vunipola, arguably the form No.8 in world rugby, was at his usual effective, bulldozing best — even Eben Etzebeth came off second best when connecting head on head with the England back-row — while Youngs, Ford and Owen Farrell have built a brilliant understanding in the midfield. This platform allowed Marland Yarde and Jonny May time and space to run directly at the Boks defence.
With both Maro Itoje and George Kruis sidelined, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes combined well in the second-row and their performance will give Jones food for thought when he has a fully fit party to pick from. But their discipline will concern Jones — they conceded six penalties in the first 30 minutes — and a better team than the Boks would have exploited these lapses.
But the Boks are a team low on confidence and look to have a confused gameplan. They are stuck midway through an approach focused on contestable kicking and then running straight and hard. England’s defence was resolute until Johan Goosen’s 59th minute try but that was the first time they really looked stretched.
Instead they forced turnovers – Mike Brown did well in this area – and Ford pinned the Boks back in their own 22 with some deft kicking from hand. Another positive for England will be debuts for Nathan Hughes, Kyle Sinckler and Ben Te’o while Elliot Daly played the full 80 and finished on the wing.
Up next for England are Fiji and judging by their performance against the Barbarians on Friday, they will make it 11 wins from 11 under Jones next Saturday. It’s all about evolving and continuing to improve in the Jones era and this win over the Springboks saw them take another step forward in that process.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18029665/battering-springboks-shows-how-far-england-come-eddie-jones
England show how far they have come under Eddie Jones
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